Published December 11, 2013
The holiday season is a great time for wine and beer writers. It seems nearly every restaurant, club and organization is doing some kind of wine / beer tasting. Many of these events are a once a year deal, so the hosts go all out to make it really special. While grocery stores are some of the largest sellers of wine in our Valley, it is not commonplace for them to host tasting events.
The Churchill Commons Giant Eagle has broken that mold, and this year their event was larger and offered a more diverse selection of beverages than most events I've attended at area restaurants or clubs. The store actually shuts down some signficant retail floor space for the event, which is an almost unheard of concept in high volume retailing. The store's ownership, management and staff are all heavily involved in the planning, and it shows.
Some of you may remeber that I decided to feature the Churchill Commons Giant Eagle in one of my print articles a while back (you can still read it at www.vindy.com/valleyfood). That is still the only time I've featured a grocery store in a print column. This annual wine tasting event is an excellent example of what sets this store apart from the others.
First, it is an invitation only event and those invited are identified by mangers Scott and Glen as their "best" wine and beer customers. They know this because they are very hands on in the wine department. Usually, it's one of them who is personally helping a customer with their purchases or answering questions.
Second, these guys actually have the knowledge needed for effective wine and beer sales at the retail level. The number of consumer choices has exploded over the last few years, and their management team stays on top of the changes and can identify new and exciting products for consumers to try.
Third, they have a made a commitment to carrying more unique products than any chain grocery store in our area. They are not afraid to offer products outside of the Giant Eagle product list. Often, these products are only availale at local independent retailers and sell extremely well. In the case of Churchill Commons, you can literally shop at one store and find almost every brand of wine and beer you want.
Congratulations to the Graf Family, Scott, Glen, Jeff and all the store staff on an amazing event. They had over 130 people in attendance and everyone was thoroughly enjoying themselves throughout the evening. Here's a look at some of my favorite tastes from the event:
Columbia Crest Les Chavaux Red Blend $14
Kenwood Jack London Cabernet $27
Anna De Cordoniu Sparkling $12
Simi Chardonnay $14
Rodney Strong Cabernet Sonoma County $16
Concannon Crimson and Clover $12
Once Upon A Vine Pinot Noir $14
Flying Dog Oyster Stout
Troegs Hop Back Ale
Old Rasputin Russian Imperial Stout
Heavy Seas Winter Storm Ale
New Blegium Brewing Fate Tire Ale (coming to OH December 16th)
Everyone (including me) was really excited to learn that New Belgium Brewing of Colorado will be available in Ohio starting December 16th. They have an amazing lineup of beers including the famous Fat Tire Red Ale. I'll be covering the launch of New Blegium in my next blog.